European Commission urges to cut red tape for high-tech research

(Nanowerk News) Urgent action is needed to cut red tape and create a more risk-tolerant environment for high-tech research in the ICT (Information and Communication Technology) sector, the European Commission has said.
In a Communication released on 4 September, the Commission sets out its response to a recent evaluation of EU-funded ICT research that was carried out by innovation expert and former Finnish Prime Minister Esko Aho.
The Aho report, which was published at the end of June, notes that EU-funded research has helped Europe to become a world leader in certain fields, such as nano-electronics and high-speed networking. However, it is critical of the fact that significant barriers to innovation are still preventing the full exploitation of research results. The report sets out 23 recommendations designed to improve the situation.
In its Communication, the Commission 'welcomes the report and takes full note of the 23 recommendations', and pledges to take action to improve the situation. It also calls on the European Parliament and Member States to support its efforts.
'European ICT research is a world leader in telecommunications and audiovisual systems and in application areas such as intelligent cars and medicine. However, we are falling behind in terms of the level and intensity of ICT research spending and we consistently fail to commercialise research results,' said Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media. 'EU ICT research must be turned into growth, jobs and competitiveness. For this to happen, we need a single market approach to ICT research and innovation. We need less administrative red tape and risk aversion and a more proactive policy environment.'
The Commission notes that some steps have already been taken to reduce the administrative burden of research. Under the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), SMEs can use a flat rate for overheads and submit average personnel costs. Project consortia also have greater freedom to change participants, and participation is open to companies in over 150 countries through international cooperation agreements.
The effectiveness of these steps will be evaluated during the interim evaluation of FP7.
Meanwhile, the Commission recognises that, 'additional efforts should be made to increase the global reach of the programme in areas where Europe can take the lead'.
Looking to the future, the Commission plans to examine mechanisms to help new, high-growth companies access venture capital funds more easily. It will also explore options to speed up the process of developing standards and specifications for innovative products and services. Finally, it promises to investigate ways of reducing fragmentation in the ICT research and innovation landscape in Europe.
The Commission accepts the Aho report's recommendation on the importance of a risk-tolerant approach to research funding. Here, the Commission calls on the Parliament and Council to take this into account when drawing up the rules of participation and financial regulations for the framework programmes.
A new consultation on ICT research has also been launched. This poses three key questions: What are the main challenges ahead for ICT research and innovation? How, and in what fields, should Europe aim to lead? What is the role of public policy in putting Europe at the forefront of ICT innovation?
The closing date for contributions is 7 November 2008. The results of the consultation, along with the Commission's evaluation of the Aho report, will feed into the development of an integrated strategy for research and innovation in the ICT sector, which is scheduled for release early next year.
Source: Cordis
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